Tips From a Foreclosure Investor

By Off The Shelf
Sunday, July 1, 2007

For some investors, the recent downturn in the housing market looks like opportunity. Some of the most aggressive of them go after foreclosures, homes that people have lost after they've fallen behind on mortgage payments or taxes. To find out more about this style of real estate investing, The Post's Mary Ellen Slayter recently spoke with Ralph R. Roberts, co-author of "Foreclosure Investing for Dummies" and a longtime real estate agent and investor in Michigan. An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

Q Who is a good candidate for investing in foreclosures?

A It's right for someone with a secure job, solid cash flow and lots of cash on hand -- someone who wants to make some money on the side. If you're married, your spouse needs to be on board, too. I like for people to use their own money. But if you don't have enough cash but you're willing to do the work, find a partner. My first "bank" was my grandmother. I didn't pay her interest, but every time I made a deal, I took her out to lunch. If you really want to do it, you can always find sources of investment capital.

And who's not a good candidate?

Anyone who thinks this is easy money. It's a myth, perpetuated by all these late-night TV gurus, that you can get rich quick doing this. If you're in financial trouble, this is not going to bail you out.

Why would someone want to look into this now?

There's never been quite so many opportunities for individual investors to buy foreclosures. There are just so many of them. Before, the market was chiefly controlled by good old boy networks, through the banks' brokers.

How does it work in declining markets, which are the ones that are most likely to have lots of foreclosures?

You account for this in the price you pay for the property. You make your profit when you buy, after all; you realize it when you sell. There's a formula in the book that helps you adjust for a soft or flat market. My wife once pointed out to me that no matter what the economy looks like, people are still going to buy and sell houses. They're still going to get married and start families. Even if 10 percent of workers are laid off, the other 90 percent are still working. They will still need housing.

Describe the perfect property for the foreclosure investor.

It should be in a good neighborhood. And you should be able to see clearly what you need to do to fix it up and sell it.

What kind of work is usually involved?

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